A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

State officials confident feds will restore funding for Children’s Health Insurance Program before deadline

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

As Congress works to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program days after the Sept. 30 deadline for reauthorization passed, Kentucky officials are confident their funding will be renewed before the federal money runs out.

“Without funding reauthorization on the federal level, we have enough money to maintain CHIP services for about six months,” Doug Hogan, spokesman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in an e-mail. “We fully expect federal funding to be renewed.”

An estimated 11 states are expected to run out of federal CHIP money by the end of the year, and 21 more by March 2018, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation. A separate foundation report shows that the federal budget for CHIP was about $14 billion in 2016 and Kentucky’s federal share was around $243 million.

CHIP and its funding vary by state with some states sharing the program’s expense with the federal government. Hogan said Kentucky’s program, called KCHIP, is largely funded by federal dollars.

Kentucky’s program covers uninsured children younger than 19 who live in families with income at or below 218 percent of the federal poverty level, $53,628 for a family of four). The program serves about 83,000 children in Kentucky and almost 9 million nationwide.

The historically bipartisan program was initially passed in 1997, renewed in 2015 and was set to be renewed on Sept. 30 — but Congress failed to act, instead spending its time on a second attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare which fell short a few days before the Sept. 30 deadline.

Both the Senate and House have passed bills out of committee to refund CHIP, but the Senate bill doesn’t specify how the program will be paid for, and the House bill includes funding offsets that involves taking money from an Obamacare prevention fund and charging seniors who make more than $500,000 a year higher Medicare premiums. These offsets were a source of contention for Democrats, and the bill passed on a party-line vote, reports the Washington Examiner.

Since, Republicans on the House committee have agreed to return to negotiations with Democrats in hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement, Jessie Hellmann reported Oct. 10th for The Hill.

However, the chairman of the committee, Greg Walden (R-Ore.) warned in a statement that if they can’t reach a deal by the end of this week, the marked up bill will be taken up by the House when they return from their recess Oct. 23.

Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in an Oct. 2 statement that while he understands the “partisan toxicity and ambiguity” around Obamacare, “kids should not pay the price for partisan politics” and called for a bipartisian effort to extend the program’s funding.

“Though leaders in Washington may assert that states should shoulder this vital coverage for children, the federal government cannot expect an already strapped state budget to absorb the costs of the program,” he said. “And Washington cannot turn its back to the families counting on CHIP to ensure better health outcomes for their sons and daughters.”

He added, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a track record of standing tall for kids. We need him to protect CHIP – and our kids – from being a casualty in the never-ending Washington D.C. health care debate. Congress must extend CHIP funding with declarative and immediate action!”

Kentucky Voices for Health sent a letter Oct. 4 to leadership of the aforementioned House and Senate committees that had more than 100 “sign-ons” urging Congress to “quickly pass a clean extension of CHIP and continue the bipartisan commitment to this successful program.” The letter noted that KCHIP had contributed to the state’s uninsured rate of less than 7 percent, with the rate of uninsured children falling to 3.2 percent.

No final congressional action is expected until late October at the earliest, when the House gets back from its recess.

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